Toshiyuki Toyonaga [C“LR”OWN] (Review)

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C“LR”OWN brings Toshiyuki Toyonaga once again to the spotlight. In a mini-album that revisits some of his hits, it’s the new tracks that keep us at the edge of our seats. Overflowing with talent making a powerful comeback, here it is Toshiyuki Toyonaga. 

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Mini-Album: C“LR”OWN
Label: Aniplex+
Release date: 01/06/16 
Genre: J-Rock

Tracklist:

01. C“LR”OWN
02. Reason...
03. Valentine season
04. メッセージ
05. Day you laugh –latin style-
06. 僕の☆☆計画

Track by track analysis:

01. C“LR”OWN

With a classic swing (a jazz variant that has its main focus in brass elements) instrumental, Toyonaga makes his way with the title track. C“LR”OWN is undoubtly an addictive track where brass is a major force and the contrabass is king. Loungy piano melodies in the background blend with the jazzy drums and laid back guitar. With completely different rhythm sections spread out, the instrumental seems livelier than ever. Toyonaga‘s vocal delivery inputs a soulful touch to the track that mixed with the fast tempo, energetic swing instrumental, is eye and ear catching. 5/5 

02. Reason…

[Previously review] The jazzy and funky “Reason…” is our first look into Toyonaga‘s reworked and improved sound. With a sound as close to acoustic as ever, this track is approached in a simpler way than most of the pop-rock tracks in his repertoire. The piano plays a major role in this track alongside the jazzy drums, the barely noticeable bass and the funky guitar – that gives this track some extra flavor with an impressive solo in the outro – the instrumental by itself gives the listener that needed push to hit the dancefloor. The vocal performance… If we said that it’s about Toshiyuki Toyonaga that we’re talking about, many people wouldn’t even understand what we meant by it (except the ones that already know the quality of his music), so we keep things simple and right to the point: he sounds flawless with his powerful vibrato and, to add to this performance’s quality, Toyonaga adds so much energy to it making the track almost impossible to not dance along to. 5/5

03. Valentine season

This ballad starts off simple with a piano accompanying Toyonaga‘s emotional performance, building up in tension throughout the verses, the track softly explodes into a breathtaking chorus where the lonely piano is joined by strings, acoustic and electric guitars, slow paced drums and a reverberating bass, instruments that remain an important part of the instrumental starting from the second verse. The track has an unsual break (we won’t spoil it so check it for yourselves) before the stunning piano lead outro. Toyonaga always delivers his ballads in a way we can’t even point out mistakes – because there aren’t. Everything was crafted in the way that the listener not only will pay attention to the story but in some degree relate to it – depending on how much you relate to the lyrics you can even burst out crying. Delicate, emotional track that stands our in this release. 5/5

04. メッセージ

Message” gives us airy synth pads, a looping delicate piano melody and some old school 80’s guitar and drum work. All of this only as appetizer. The instrumental piece gets grander as we progress into the track. Classic guitar riffs and licks mixed with steady mid-tempo guitar work and a top notch piano melody, simple but effective. The highlights can be found from the bridge onwards gifting the listeners with two different guitar solos and a complex yet soothing piano, synth pads intermission. Eye and ear catching song that keeps things simple but entertaining. 4.5/5

05. Day you laugh –latin style-

Day you laugh” gets a major revamp with this latin incurssion. Toyonaga went for a more danceable, relaxed sound with this new arrangement not losing the original’s quality through it. Acoustic guitars, shakers, congas, claves and a salsa oriented piano melody replace the heavy guitar riffs, powerful drums and bass. Some might argue that the track lost it’s rock edge – officially it did – but we couldn’t be more serious saying that this arrangement will please a lot of his fans with this danceable, energetic and sexy take on the song. Given that the original track was flawless it was hard to give it a new color and make it still as top tier as the later, Toyonaga managed to up the ante and deliver this addictive take. 5/5

06. 僕の☆☆計画

Deviating from his trademark sound Toyonaga risked a lot with this track. 僕の☆☆計画 has an up-tempo, energetic, synth based melody as the core of the instrumental piece. Although it kicked off with a reverberating bassline, it’s the synths that take the front seat but the heavy guitar riffs, drums and bass are not forgotten at all. After a mini-album that put our emotions running high, this track makes all tension go away in a playful way. Vocally Toyonaga played a lot around with his tone and entonation (which sounds funny at times). Entertaining but a bit of a downgrade in comparison with the rest of the mini-album. 4/5

Final rating:4.5 stars

By now it’s more than official that Toshiyuki Toyonaga is the top singer among seiyuu. It’s a rare feat to be this talented composing his lyrics, helping out in the songs’ arrangements, singing heavenly, always on key and even having a tone prone to deliver steady low notes, solid mid-tones as well as stunning high notes. He doesn’t lack in any aspect performance wise. His vocal technique is no joke and he’s proven that to us time and time again. Falsetto, vibrato, you name it, his voice is that versatile that will make us react in awe each time he sings something.

C“LR”OWN is another close-to-perfect release. The powerful mix between Toyonaga‘s soulful yet edgy voice and his jazzy rock that we can’t help but to love mesmerizes us once again. Starting off with an all in with the title track, Toyonaga builded up the tension through the various tracks in the album ending on a playful note. “Reason…” is already a fan favorite, being chosen to be re-released only benefited this mini-album. “Valentine season” was breathtaking. From start to finish this track had all the elements to make us burst into tears. Its build up in emotion, starting off from those quiet, melodic piano notes in the background guiding the vocal performance to the powerful chorus, the track is executed and arranged perfectly. メッセージ had that classic rock touch that was addictive. Day you laugh –latin style- received one of the most interesting revamps we’ve perhaps encountered so far and 僕の☆☆計画, although the weakest track in the mini-album was a fun track and new experience in Toyonaga‘s repertoire.

In the end this mini-album was nothing short of amazing, managing to grab our attention from start to finish, making us live each line, note and emotions poured out along this 5 track power release.

C“LR”OWN is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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Author: midorin

The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. After 6 months in Macau SAR, I am back to being based in Cascais, Portugal. Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" was the catalyst to completely dedicate myself to writing about male seiyuu music.